We live in a country far to the East of Mecca so that our day starts about five hours before it does in Mecca. We have been using a local sighting to determine the start of Ramadan and the time of the two `Id prayers. This means that we usually start fasting a day later than Mecca. Should we continue to do this or should we be following the sightings in Mecca? If we follow the sighting in Mecca, it will be very difficult for us to pray the Tarâwîh prayers on the first night of Ramadân, because by the time we find out about Mecca’s sighting, it is usually already be about 1 AM here.
This issue is a point of disagreement among scholars. The strongest opinion on the matter is that each land should rely upon its own sighting, especially when there is a discrepancy in the time of sunrise as there is in the case between your country and Mecca.
The following hadîth supports this viewpoint. Kurayb relates:
I was in Syria at the start of Ramadan and I saw the crescent of the new month on Thursday night. At the end of the month, I went to Madinah and Ibn `Abbâs asked me when we saw the crescent moon. I told him: “We saw it on Thursday night.”
He asked: “Did you see it yourself?”
I replied: “Yes, I did. And the people saw it, so they fasted and Mu`âwiyah fasted.”
He said: “However, we saw it on Friday night, and we shall continue to fast until we either complete thirty days or see the crescent of the new month.”
I said: “Do you not find sufficient the sighting and fasting of Mu`âwiyah?”
He said: “No. This is how Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) had commanded us.” [Sahîh Muslim]
Al-Nawawî writes in his commentary on this hadîth: “The only reason Ibn `Abbâs did not act upon Khurayb’s report is because a sighting does not have any legal effect on those who are remote from its place of occurrence.” [Sharh Sahîh Muslim (7/197)]
In any event, what is most important is that the people in your locality do not become divided on the issue. This has most regrettably been the case for many of the Muslim communities living within non-Muslim countries. It is imperative and legally obligatory for the Muslim masses in a given land along with their scholars to agree on the method of determining the start of Ramadan and the time of the `Id prayers.
If it is decided in your country, according to the recommendation of your scholars, to follow Mecca, then that is what every Muslim living there has to do. In such a scenario, when it is announced that Ramadan has started – even if it is very late at night – then it becomes permissible for the Muslims to offer the Tarâwîh prayers. These prayers can be offered at any time before the arrival of dawn. If people on the first night have to pray this prayer at home on their own, then this also poses no problem. The matter is quite flexible.
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today
-- Al Arabiya Digital